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Old 08-17-2017, 08:58 PM
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On the Market - Due Diligence Questions

Hi Gang,

I'm new here from the pelican forums. I own a 1985 380SL and an 86' 911.

A beautiful W108 (1973 280 SEL 4.5) recently caught my eye that I'd like to check out over the weekend. Seller recently purchased the car this summer, which could be a red flag. I figure something is either wrong with the car, or a simple flipper trying to make a buck.

While I prefer to buy from the actual car owners, I am willing to give a flipper a chance.

In any event, I come to the brain trust with two questions:

1) Given the car has a 14-digit VIN that isn't recognized by Car Fax (or similar services), how would I be able to look up car history? I'm interested in previous owners, how many of them, mileage throughout the years, etc.

2) General buying advice specific to a 280SEL. What should I look out for? My research tells me to look for A) rust (duh) and B) front suspension (what's a "king pin"?) Any specific things to look for would be very, very appreciated.


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Old 08-17-2017, 09:19 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 7,534
I'd run the guys phone number through google and see if it turns up in other ads. If he turns out to be a flipper passing themselves off as a car collector / private owner / enthusiast, I'd run away. There is nothing like starting a transaction out with a lie / omission of data. Real dealers state in the ad that they are dealers.

Other than a mileage history, ignore car fax and rely on an actual inspection of the car. CF won't pickup damage that a person paid for out of pocket. ( as in to avoid insurance going up )

Older front suspensions used King Pins rather than Ball Joints. On American cars these went away in the late 50's, I have no idea when MB got away from them.
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Old 08-17-2017, 11:05 PM
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Oregon
Posts: 6
A few months ago I bought a 78 240D.
During the inspection, all manuals were found in the glove box.
The maintenance book was filled with all the services the previous owner had done.
That history went back all the way to the original oil change they had done in Germany when the car was picked up using the European delivery program.

Maybe you will get lucky and have at least some documentation to let you know some history.
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Old 08-18-2017, 10:42 AM
meltedpanda's Avatar
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Central Ky
Posts: 6,270
if you knew what city it originated you could perhaps call the local MB dealer for any service records , certainly ask. I think MB only made the 4.5 280 for two model years, not sure why...
Service is a key as I am sure you know, rust as mentioned , trunk , floor boards ect. Take her for a spin , see how she feels , how the gauges respond
73 would be a DJET, lots of quirks but fairly simple, problem is availability of key components
2015 Porsche Cayman - Elizabeth
2011 Porsche Cayman - Bond,James Bond
99 E320 THE Queen Mary - SOLD
62 220b - Dolly - Finally my Finny! Sadly SOLD
72 450SL, Pearl-SOLD
16 F350 6.7 Diesel -THOR
19 BMW X5 - Heaven on Wheels
14 38HP John Deere 3038E Tractor -Mean Green
84 300SD, Benjamin -SOLD
71 220 - W115-Libby ( my first love) -SOLD
73 280 - W114 "Organspende" Rest in Peace
81 380 SL - Rest in Peace
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Old 08-21-2017, 05:59 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Queretaro in Mexico
Posts: 243
Buyer’s Guide | Tom's Mercedes Benz 108/109 Resource Site

this may help
1972 W108 280SE 4.5
1977 W116 450SEL
1981 E12 528i BMW
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Old 08-22-2017, 10:28 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: near Scranton, PA
Posts: 5,409
The front suspension on these is complex in terms of the required maintenance and servicing. Requires greasing every 2-3k miles, and the kingpins themselves can get play - it's the part that the knuckle/spindle actually rotates on - but so can the top and bottom eccentric bolts that hold the kingpin, the control arm bushings, the subframe mounts, and so on. All those parts are available - but they're also shared with the 6-figure 111 convertibles, and the skyrocketing 6.3s, which means a lot of those bits now cost more than they used to. The good side is that the 4.5 is starting to climb, and values are 2-3x what they were just 5 short years ago, and likely will more than double again in the next 3-5.

The downside is that I didn't do research in the last 3-5 years on that buyer's guide, so things like "Figure $100 per kingpin, $50 per outer LCA bushing, $50 per outer UCA bushing (eccentric bolt), $100 for sway bar mounts, etc." may not be correct.

2021 Charger Scat Pack Widebody "Sinabee"
2018 Durango R/T

1972 280SE 4.5
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited "Hefe", 1992 Jeep Cherokee Laredo "Jeepy", 2006 Charger R/T "Hemi"
1999 Chrysler 300M - RIP @ 221k
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